Archive for the 'books' Category

Reading – The Dark Is Rising

Current reading: The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. There’s a group of people reading it online (starting yesterday, chapter by chapter). There’s even a twitter group with hashtag #thedarkisreading started by Rob Macfarlane. I read the first chapter last night, on schedule, and found an odd effect of having read the book so many times before: it sparked layers of meaning and memories from childhood on. I know that the countryside in the UK looks very little like the land south of the Poconos. But… I’m back in Pennsylvania in an instant, in my kind of spooky room in the attic.  When I first read the book, I peopled the novel’s pages with people I met on a daily basis (one of my favorite GS leaders was a Menonite who wore slacks, and I thought of her when I first met Maggie in the book [awkward]) .

Rob’s Twitter feed says for those of us who read the book before: “what are your memories of that first reading? How old were you. When, what weather?” I read it in October, probably near 6th grade (so… 10 or 11?), and my first memories were wondering where the cascade of ‘wrongness’ began, because I missed many of the early signals in the first chapter. I assumed England got snow near Christmas (like home). For me, the first note of unease came from the static on the radio. And then there were the animals — and humans acting strangely.

Second chapter is tonight, and I’m likely to be following along and commenting on the Dovegrey Reader blog.

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Reading: Everything I Never Told You

Complicated family relationships, like a geometry lesson, or a tiny solar system that pulls and tugs itself around one event…. I’ve come late to this book about the Lee family. Celeste Ng‘s book was a NY Times Bestseller, but I’m glad I waited to read it until I was ready for its voice.

The beginning is quietly rough, and I found myself leaping to assumptions about character motivations, which in turn made me think about stereotyping behavior. The recurring ebb and flow of loss and return gave patterns to the book (misleading or moving the plot forward). And at the end, I was left with an idea about the “why” behind the build-up of actions. I felt like time continued to float out from the end of the book, and I could see in my mind’s eye where the characters would travel.

“Years from now, they will still be arranging the pieces they know, puzzling over her features, redrawing her outlines in their mind. Sure that they’ve got her right this time…”

I’m not ready for this quiet book to end. I can still hear the voices of Lydia, Marilyn, James, Heather, Nathaniel, and Jack. Any other readers out there wondering about future revelations and paths in their live(s)?

 

 

Amazing stories

Due to travel, I managed to read some thought-provoking, wonderful books last month. My family circulates books among one another — a lending library that goes from the one side of the country to the other, then back to the middle.

One of the books I borrowed from the family “library” was Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers. Gorgeous cover on this edition published in the UK. Like many true stories, you’re left with a feeling of nebulous (did he, did she… etc.) ending. I was able to suspend my belief and to feel like I was visiting those murky days right after WWII, in Japan. And if I were in occupied Japan, how interesting it would have been to meet the main characters — the narrator, a sailor on a US ship, and Kaji, a Japanese woman who was raised in China. They’re both in love with poetry, with music, and cinema. It was a  diverting book for a long airplane ride, and like the narrator (now older, and able to understand the gift of platonic love from Kaji), I wanted to step into the Mozart Cafe, listen to some challenging classical music, and see the story continue.

Now that Brinkley-Rogers’ memoir was passed on to someone else, I’ve begun reading Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You. So far I can only say that it seems to have a Faulkner-esque sense of time (looping back upon itself to move the story forward). And I hope that the loops will eventually jettison the family at the heart of the story beyond the great mysteries of loss that they’re dealing with.

So, are you reading anything I should check out?

Sporadic like sunshine

Another beloved aunt passed while I was at a business conference, and so … much of July and part of August has been me settling my mood. The world seems unbalanced by losses of people I’ve known all my life, even though it was great to reconnect to their children and grandchildren.

Which is why I’m exploring changes — either reducing clutter or talking with the family about moving away from the land of government work. I couldn’t picture myself working as a lobbyist 2 years ago. I don’t think that will change now.

So, if you had to rethink your life, what would you do or where would you choose to go?

The family conversation has led to a lot of surprises. Sporadic changes have started breaking through like sunshine. We started to repaint the kitchen (which had been in a holding pattern, partly due to the heat and humidity and partly due to the unending tyranny of travel).

Due to the heat, I’ve been reading a lot more than knitting. Two books particularly broke through the gloom of impending thunderstorms and ever present humidity.

Paper Love: Searching for the Girl my Grandfather Left Behind” by Sarah Wildman. Thoughtful, somewhat devastating read about the author’s research into people her family left behind in Berlin. It’s fascinating and interesting to see the research connections and learn the choices that saved people (or didn’t).

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson. An enjoyable farce from 1938 (filled with glamorous 1930s nightclubs and some typecasting). I can’t remember if Dovegreyreader‘s site or Cornflower‘s site that recommended it, or if I read about it on the Persephone Books site, and remembered it when I saw it on the library shelves. Anyway, whoever told me about it, thank you.

Hilde Domin – reading

Thanks to Buchmerkur Schroersche Berlin [Link here], I have started searching for English/German side by side publications of Hilde Domin’s poetry. I’ve stumbled onto the poems translated by Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel online here. Autumn eyes/Herbstaugen is particularly lovely.

I’ve also been enjoying a book on Harlem by Jonathan Gill. From the first altercation between the people already living there and the Dutch, to its place in history as a place for Jewish and Irish immigrants to start out, race clashes, and the Harlem Renaissance. The book continues through 400 years, and I’ve only reached the jazz era. 🙂 But it’s all history we didn’t learn in school, so I’ve been having a great time learning how much I didn’t know.

Reading – The Railwayman’s Wife

RehobothsunrisebWritten by Ashley Hay

Has anyone else had a moment where you have to return a library book, and instead you renew it so that you can reread the last 15 or 20 pages over, again and again?

Guilty. <– that’s me.

That’s the moment when things turn, like a train doubling back on itself … and I think, “There was a moment when one person being in the wrong place at the right time would have been nice”. Set in Australia right after WWII, although with flashbacks we do visit before the war… It follows Anika Lachlan and her child after she’s lost her husband. Some things conveniently happen: the town sets her up as a librarian, two eligible men come back from the war. But other things are less convenient: both men are haunted by the war and their dreams, Ani keeps finding she is losing the essence of Mac, or feeling that his presence is in the way in every conversation. One man is a poet who has lost his words to the war, and his ability to teach young children. One man is a doctor with a surly personal manner. It’s like the perfect setup for a screwball romance, except it isn’t.

In Ani’s own words “The year I’ve had, Dr. Draper, here, with my daughter, making sense of this strange new world. I’ve lost my husband. I have this job. I wake up in my own room, in my own house. And yet everything, everything is different.”  It’s different from the other after-the-war novels I’ve read, possibly due to locale and the characters who seem independent of anything the writer was leading them to. Definitely a book to reread.

Reading: The Skeleton Road by Val McDermid

Some books jump to the front of the queue, even when you have perfectly fine reading material home from the library. Val McDermid’s “The Skeleton Road” jumped to the front, in front of the latest Laurie R. King book, and in front of two other books that are due back at the library tomorrow. And it stayed in the front, and was read and reread in 4 days.

Brief sum up: satisfying mystery, with some comic characters, but painted with a very broad brush by the mixed-up sadness of war torn lands. Not sure this is a book I want to see on television, because some things are best left to the imagination. Probably I’m alone there. 🙂

I’m  glad not to have seen the blurbs about the book, since they would have colored my reading experience. I plowed into Prologue and first chapter from the start, and found it hard to go back to work after lunch break. Good cold-weather reading, when you don’t want to go out into the howling wind and shovel the snow.

 

 


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